Year-long moratorium is about to expire
The Town of Twisp’s nearly year-long moratorium on the conversion of dwellings to overnight rentals is set to expire next month, and the Town Council is once again faced with how to proceed in the absence of any new ordinances.
The topic is tentatively set to be on the council’s April 25 agenda, which is expected to include information about whether the town can further extend the moratorium.
“We should find out what our options are,” council member Mark Easton said at last week’s meeting. He said the public needs to be aware of how things stand and be allowed to have more input.
In response to a query by Easton, Mayor Soo Ing-Moody said the Housing Action Plan that is being developed for Twisp by a consultant likely won’t address the issue of overnight rentals, “so it is up to us to deal with it directly and specifically.”
What that might look like is still to be determined.
Council member Aaron Studen weighed in against banning overnight rental conversions altogether, but said that based on earlier public comments there needs to be some limit. Council member Katrina Auburn said the town should consider changes to the zoning code to help limit conversions.
Council member Hans Smith said it would still take a lot of work to come up with, and approve, new overnight rental policies, which isn’t likely to happen before the current moratorium expires. He said he would be OK with an extension, but would like to see input from the Planning Commission before the council makes any final decisions.
Ing-Moody said town staff will research the possibility of a moratorium extension, and also explore options for quick council action if that becomes necessary.
The moratorium, first enacted in April 2022, was extended by another six months last November, as the town gave itself more time to study of local housing needs and how best to address them.
The first moratorium was adopted after residents expressed concerns about a rental conversion on West Twisp Avenue. That concern expanded to include a broader public discussion about the potential effects of overnight rental conversions on the housing market and on neighborhood ambience. Most of the comments asked the town to suspend applications for conversions to overnight rentals, which can occur through a licensing and administrative process without council review or approval.
Commenters have cited the loss of housing options for workers, possible negative effects on the character and safety of established neighborhoods, and the potential for taking business away from established tourism lodging businesses including B&Bs.
The moratorium stops conversions of existing residential housing to overnight rentals, including properties in commercial zones, while the town considers its long-term policy options for such accommodations The moratorium does not affect hotels, motels or existing overnight rentals including B&Bs.
Twisp currently has no overt prohibitions of overnight rentals in its municipal code. An overnight rental conversion requires a business license, a land use application and an administrative permit, but no council review. Applicants must meet several requirements included in the town’s code. Nightly rentals are allowed in every zone except industrial and at the municipal airport.
Currently there only about half a dozen licensed nightly rental units in the town, but not all of those are active as overnight rentals.
In other business at last week’s Town Council meeting, Public Works Director Andrew Denham asked for the public’s cooperation in doing a better job of caring for Twisp Town Park, which he said has been plagued by trash-dumping and vandalism. People are not picking up after their dogs either, Denham said.
Soo Ing-Moody also urged community members to “do their part” to keep the park a pleasant place to visit.